Flu Deaths Climb to 76 in Washington

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington health officials say 76 people have died from the flu this season as of Friday, up from 46 deaths reported the previous week.

The latest weekly update from the state Department of Health shows that all but four of the people who died were 50 and older.

Earlier this week, Pierce County reported that a child younger than 10 died of the flu.

Pierce County had the highest number of reported flu-related deaths with 20, followed by 18 in Snohomish County. King County reported 11 deaths.

Here's a story published in The Chronicle earlier this month highlighting the dangers of flu season and measures that can be taken:

State Health Officials Urge Public Action to Prevent Spread of Flu

By The Chronicle 

Health officials at the Washington State Department of Health are reminding the public influenza season is in full swing and all indicators show a large increase in the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths over the past several weeks.

Health officials urge people to get the flu vaccine as the first line of defense for influenza, according to a press release from the Department of Health. 

Rachel Wood, the health officer for Lewis and Thurston counties, previously told The Chronicle this year’s flu shot is a good match for the virus. She also said people should get the shot instead of the nasal spray vaccine, which hasn’t worked as well in the past couple of years.

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. It is especially important for people who have an increased risk for severe complications from the flu, and for health care providers and others who are in close contact with people who may have influenza, according to the release.

Medical facilities across the state are seeing high numbers of patients for influenza and other currently circulating virus. To help ensure that urgent care and emergency room facilities have space for other critical needs, health officials urge the public to know which symptoms of influenza require medical treatment, and when the illness can be managed at home. 

“The flu can make people really sick, and over the past few weeks there has been a dramatic rise in influenza activity across the state,” Kathy Lofy, health officer for Washington State Department of Health, said in the release. “Most healthy people who get the flu don’t need medical care. However, people who are in a high risk group, or are very sick or worried about their illness, should contact their health care provider.”

Young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions are at high risk of serious flu-related complications, according to the release.

If a person in a high risk group develops flu symptoms, it’s best for them to contact their doctor and remind the health care provider about their high risk status for the flu, according to the release.

Health care providers will decide if influenza testing and treatment are needed. Antiviral drugs can shorten the length of illness and make symptoms milder, according to the release, but the drugs work better the sooner they’re started. The state Department of Health also encouraged people to stay home if they are sick, because it’s important to not spread the flu to other people.

In the past few weeks there has been a dramatic rise in cases, but that’s somewhat normal for flu during the winter, according to the release. Every year the flu sickens and kills people throughout Washington. That’s why people should get a flu shot every year.

Chris Thomas, communication manager of Providence’s Southwest Region, previously told The Chronicle that during the last month of December, the Centralia hospital had seen three to four times more people come in with the chief complaint of flu-like symptoms. Increases were also reported in the number of people who tested positive for the flu, and the number of people who tested positive and had to be admitted to the hospital. 

For more information, go online to the Department of Health’s website, www.doh.wa.gov, or find them on Facebook or Twitter. 

A full list of people at high risk of flu-related complications can be found online at www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/complications.htm#complications.

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